All Spun Up: A Love of Engines & SEMA

May 2020 Column Colin Peterson


This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue.

I have been an enthusiast of vehicles and machines powered by internal combustion engines for as long as I can remember. That includes everything from a weed whacker to a massive locomotive. Diesel engines, though, have always had a special appeal to me. Perhaps it’s because they’re loud and they really catch your attention. That’s due to the fact that their parts are heavier than those of gasoline engines and they have a higher compression ratio. I also have always been fascinated by spinning objects and the energy transfer that goes with that spinning; engines and vehicles have so many parts that spin at high speeds or move back and forth—from the pistons, rods, and shafts all the way to the wheels. The louder noise unique to diesel machines combined with those spinning components provides quite the thrill, especially seeing it all output to massive torque and power. With that said, I introduce you to my new column, All Spun Up!

My enthusiasm for diesel pickups started from an enthusiasm for commercial transportation and mass transit that really showed around 2010 and 2011; I found out that some of the same Power Stroke and Cummins engine blocks are utilized in school buses and small medium-duty trucks. Because of that, the Ford, Chevrolet/GMC, and RAM three-quarter ton and larger trucks have always seemed like totally different vehicles from their gasser counterparts, and of course, they feel totally different! The Power Stroke, Duramax, and Cummins don’t just make the trucks roar like big cats (no pun intended on Caterpillar, the major engine manufacturer). They are real monsters in terms of performance. When I hear those engines growl, the trucks’ dynamics and looks suddenly make so much more sense. That’s all the more reason to flaunt them by building them with lift kits, exhausts, cold air intakes, among many other aftermarket parts.

Around late October into early November 2016 was the first time I went to the SEMA Show, the major trade show that showcases these cool aftermarket mods. When I arrived in Las Vegas on Halloween evening that year, I pictured I would be at some specialty convention similar to several auto shows I had been to on the east coast where I was raised.

For me, SEMA ended up being what I pictured turned up to 11, but with the heavy “aftermarket” element included on top of it, not to mention it’s also trade-only. I saw so many exciting products, including new tonneau covers from Lund International, exhausts from MagnaFlow, tires and wheels from Mickey Thompson, a Performance DPF from Bully Dog for the 6.4L Power Stroke, and many more products that year, along with endless eye-catching diesel project trucks.

Three trucks that stood out sharply were a yellow Cummins-powered Nissan Titan with a Hellwig-ornamented Lance camper, a red and black heavily decked 2014 Cummins-powered RAM 2500 Crew Cab owned by then-17-year-old Mason Walker of Prairie Grove, Ark., and a then-brand-new 2017 Ford F350 project from Any Level Lift of Ballston Lake, N.Y. The Any Level Lift truck, completed by company co-owners and cousins Aaron Aldrich and Jared Scanlon, was a major show stopper, as it showed off their company’s unique lift kit that could lift the truck at literally any level on any single wheel!

Looking back at that experience, it was an exhilarating event that I should have taken more advantage of. There is so much more to trade shows than just seeing the vehicles or products and learning about them. Learning about the people behind those vehicles and products is even more significant in such a setting. After all, it is a perfect opportunity to network with industry professionals, and the networking element makes SEMA a much more interesting experience. Now, as I assume my spot as the assistant editor of Diesel Tech, I look forward to helping showcase more of what this industry and its professionals have to offer!

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